Skip to Content

Alternating Grip Pull Up Exercise 2023

The Alternating Grip Pull Up in a climbing drill may involve changing grips while maintaining your hang on the bar.

The Alternating Grip Pull-Up for the climbing drill portion of the Physical Readiness Test (PRT) is a challenging exercise designed to test and improve the upper body and grip strength that is crucial for climbing.

Alternating Grip Pull-Up Benefits

The alternating grip pull-up has several benefits as a form of climbing exercise. Some of the most notable benefits include:

Greater upper body strength & endurance

  • The alternating grip pull up exercise focuses on working the arms, back, and shoulders; this enhances and increases upper body strength and endurance of the muscles worked: biceps, latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and forearms.

Improves posture

  • The alternating grip pull up exercise works on the muscle groups on your back; this corrects and enhances your posture. 
  • This exercise also develops the necessary strength to maintain an upright position consistently.

Functional strength

  • The alternating grip pull-up workout involves the simultaneous engagement of different muscles in your body, enhancing and increasing your overall body strength and making it easier to perform daily activities without difficulty.

Stimulation of the cardiovascular system

  • If you want to experience high-performance training, alternating grip pull-ups are your best choice. 
  • Given the alternating grip pull up is a form of cardio, it goes without saying that this exercise will improve your cardiovascular endurance.

How to perform alternating grip pull-ups correctly

It is essential to do this exercise safely using the proper form. Below are the steps to follow doing this exercise:

  • Start by hanging with your arms extended using a close alternating grip. It allows you to position yourself perpendicular to the bar.
  • Hang from a pull-up bar with an overhand grip (palms facing away from you).
  • Perform a pull-up by pulling your body upwards until your chin is over the bar.
  • Lower yourself in a controlled manner.
  • Still hanging from the bar, change one hand to an underhand grip (palm facing towards you).
  • Perform another pull-up.
  • Lower yourself again, and then switch your grips (the hand that was underhand goes overhand, and vice versa).
  • Continue to alternate your grip and perform pull-ups for the specified duration or a number of repetitions.

Things to remember

  • It is essential to have a training buddy or trainer positioned at chest level. To support you in case the grip fails.
  • In addition, another person should hold your feet against their abdomen or thigh and assist you with the upward and downward movement.
  • Flex your elbows during the upward movement so your head goes above the bar.
  • As a final piece of advice, go slowly in your endurance gaining. 

Which muscles are worked during alternating grip pull-ups?

This exercise works on a variety of muscles as follows:

  • Forearms
  • Deltoid
  • Biceps
  • Latissimus dorsi. 

As mentioned earlier, this exercise is one of the most comprehensive in strength and endurance training.

Alternating Grip Pull Up as part of PRT

Purpose: This exercise develops the muscles used to pull the body upward while using an alternating grip (Figure 9-28).

Starting Position: Extended hang using the alternating grip, left or right.



  1. Keep the body straight, pull upward, allowing the head to move to the left or right side of the bar, and touch the left or right shoulder to the bar.
  2. Return to the starting position.
Alternating Grip Pull Up
Alternating Grip Pull Up

Check Points:

  • When using the left alternating grip, Soldiers touch the left shoulder to the bar on count 1. If the right alternating grip is used, Soldiers touch the right shoulder to the bar on count 1.
  • On count 2, the arms are fully extended to return to the starting position.
  • Keep the feet together, throughout the exercise.

Precaution: Refer to paragraph 9-42 for spotting.

Pros of this Climbing Exercise

The alternating-grip pull-up is one of the most common climbing exercises. Some of the advantages of this exercise are as follows:

  • Efficiently target and strengthen muscles, providing greater strength and functionality.
  • You can perform this training at different difficulty levels based on your experience.
  • You can use specialized equipment for this exercise or opt for pull-up bars. 

Cons of this Climbing Exercise

Some of the disadvantages of the aternating grip pull-up exercise are as follows:

  • You will require high endurance and upper-body strength to do this exercise.
  • It’s a challenging exercise for beginners. 
  • Without proper form, you could be injured while doing this exercise, such as damaging your shoulder and back area.

The changing grip style will not only enhance your grip strength and endurance but also simulate the changing hand positions you may encounter while climbing.

George N.